The sweetness of love.

I am tenderhearted and have great compassion for others.  I am a feeler.  My husband is a thinker, a problem-solver.  We are two sides of a coin.

In our family, we have a chore chart, chores each person is responsible for–for that day.  After Sean died, it was painful to look at the chore chart, so I put it away.  Eventually, we needed to function as a family again, so we used a system again.  I found that implementing the system was proving troublesome. Everything had changed, our dynamics had changed.  The kids had so many excuses why they didn’t want to do their chores, which I think was part of the grief and suffering they were going through, and since I’m so softhearted……

 I asked my husband to implement the chore chart.  Now I hear,” don’t worry about doing the pots and pans—I’ll take care of those” or “if you unload the dishwasher, I’ll load it..”

The end of the day usually finds my husband and myself finishing up chores, working side by side in the kitchen together.  It is a very sweet time for us.

Why?  I think it’s because we see in very real ways our children suffering and grieving the loss of their brother, and so in also very real ways, our hearts go out to them, and we come along beside them and help them.  Both of us—the feeler and the thinker—we love our kids—we would do anything to help them—we would do anything to show them how much we love them and that they are not alone.

It is in times of being “a parent” that I most clearly see and feel and know—God’s love.   If my husband and I, both so different, can both come along beside our children to help them during their times of suffering, so does God come along side us to help us.

God with all of God’s attributes—loves His children and comes alongside of us and helps us.  He helps us.  In so many ways we have seen “His goodness in the Land of the living.”

He has done the things that only He could do—to reach out to us—and love us—and help us. If you’d like to read some examples of how He has done this—  Read—Julia’s gift; The Gift of Grace; The Gift of Work; The Gift of Hindsight.

Our Father doesn’t do these things just for us—He does them for all His children.  He loves all His children.  Ask Him to give you the eyes to see where He is coming alongside of you.   He is the best parent there is.  He is the best parent there is.  We have the best Dad ever!!

So Be Encouraged!!

My Epiphany

Well, today is Epiphany—the official last day of Christmas.  How many of you are ready to close the door on this Christmas Holiday?  I, for one, am.  I’ve eaten too much rich food, and don’t feel all that wonderful physically.  I have grieved deeply and profoundly for those who were not physically present this Christmas—those who have gone unto eternity and those I would normally have seen but didn’t because of the shutdowns.

 I have observed once again, the deep grief of my children—which sends me to my knees praying, “Dear God please help them, and show their dad and I how to help them.”

  I have also been on my knees praying for our country—for the deep, deep distress I see—spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but Wow!!  Wow!!  Will things get better?  That is what we all hope and pray for.

Today, my husband and I spent some time in prayer together for our children and our country.  At the end of our time in prayer, I started singing an old song to him, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden”, and we both smiled.

Sometimes I think God is singing this song to us.  Why?  Because I think that as people we error in two extremes when it comes to our view of God.  We either fear giving Him our lives because we think that He will make us suffer and be miserable if we do, or we think He is like a ‘kind Santa Claus’ and He will give us anything we want—health, wealth and happiness, and if He doesn’t meet our expectations—we think He doesn’t truly care for us, and we cut Him dead.

  Both of these extremes are lies that I needed to deal with.

I had this first opinion about God before I came to know Him. I thought to truly follow God, one would need to suffer, be persecuted and be miserable. I thought if I gave my life to God, He would in turn say, “Great–I’ve got you now–now let’s make you suffer little girl!!” (Yes–imagine the witch speaking to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz–and you’ll have the right tone of voice for this imaginary conversation I was having with God.)

I found that scripture didn’t support that view of God.  In Matthew 7: 7-11, we find this idea that if we –as humans know how to give good gifts to our children, (and believe me at Christmas time—my husband excels at giving his children gifts that delight their hearts), then how much more does our Heavenly Father give good gifts to His children.  We also, have the story of the Prodigal son, where the Father in this story shows us this view of God, as loving, willing to forgive anything, and desiring a relationship with His children.

Jesus, who is the visible view of the invisible God, showed us a God who cared for us, and had compassion on us.  He healed people of leprosy and diseases, and gave people back their sight, and their ability to walk.  He brought a young man back to life and gave him back to His mother, and a girl back to life and gave her to her parents.  (After Sean died—I found it difficult to read those stories in scripture—as God did not give me back my son.)

In fact, I errored on the other side of my view of God.  He didn’t heal my son and didn’t give Sean back to his family and friends.  God failed me.  God disappointed me.  I questioned His existence. 

But Jesus—Jesus is a truth teller, and He has always and only told us the truth.  He told us that, “In this world, you will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus also told us that there would be a cost to following Him—that we might be hated, persecuted, and killed because of Him. 

That is what I realized—Jesus is a truth teller—He never promised me a Rose Garden–in other words—suffering is a part of living.  In fact the greatest joys in my life have come after suffering—like having a baby—they are such a joy—but getting them into the world involves suffering.

The question is—do we suffer, and have God walk through the suffering with us, or do we try to muster through it on our own.

I decided to take the comfort, love and encouragement God was offering me, and get over myself.  I decided to stop throwing my little fit, because God didn’t perform the way I wanted Him to.  God is not a puppet whose strings I pull.  God is God—and His ways are higher than my ways, His thoughts higher than my thoughts. 

In this world, we WILL have trials and sorrows, but take heart, because Jesus has overcome this world.”   Jesus has overcome this world—He has risen from the dead—and SO SHALL WE!!!!   So Shall We!!

May you be Encouraged!!

PollyAnna?

When I write, I am aware that I can sound a little, “Polly-Annish”.  For those of you too young to understand this reference, “PollyAnna” was a character in a book, then play, and then a movie, who was always looking on the bright side of things.  She played a game her father taught her, called— “The Glad Game.”

The reason, I reference this character, is because I would like to talk about a subject that is out of character for my usual PollyAnnish self, but I think is necessary to present the full picture of who God is.   I talk a great deal about God’s overwhelming love for us—but I hardly ever talk about God’s character of justice and righteousness.

I do however believe that God is just and righteous.  What do I mean by this—I mean that God has a standard, by which He judges all of us, and by which all of us have fallen short.  Romans 3: 23

 When someone has offended me, I am delighted that God is a Judge, and I hope that He is judging the offensive person and giving them a consequence for their sin against me.  However, when I am aware that I have offended someone else and God in the process, I am grateful for God’s mercy and forgiveness.  (I noticed this same dichotomy in my children, when they were offended, they wanted the guilty party to pay, but when they were the offender, they either denied offending, justified offending, or cried out for mercy and forgiveness.)

I know that I am grateful that God is a righteous God and will judge—when I see the atrocities, we as people commit against each other.  A stroll through the travesties of time leaves me feeling dirty and in need of a shower, but grateful that God will be holding evil Kings and dictators accountable for their holocausts.   The thought that these people who gave themselves completely over to the dark one, will be standing before the judgement seat of God and quaking in their boots for what awaits them, satisfies the need to see righteousness and justice in my soul.

Yet, if I am honest with myself, I know that when I look at my own life, and my actions– justice and righteousness demand that I pay as well.  Try this exercise out for yourself—imagine someone has made your life into a movie and they included everything in the movie, all the good parts and the bad parts of you.  Would you be embarrassed if this movie were shown to the world?  I would be mortified!!  This is how I know that I too have earned God’s Judgement.

This is where, I am so grateful to God, because His love and His justice are fully seen in Jesus Christ.   Because God loved us so much, Jesus came.  Because God is so righteous and just, Jesus came.

Jesus came to pay the penalty that I owe, and that you owe—-“The wages of sin is death…”  Romans 6:23

We have each earned a death penalty for our sins against God and against each other.

Jesus paid that penalty for each of us when He died on the cross.  Jesus—because He is God Incarnate, with His One Death could pay for ALL our Sins. 

However, we each need to recognize that we need a Savior and accept what Jesus did for us individually to receive the gift of Peace with God.  In other words–we can know God—as our Father—not as our Judge, but as our Dad. “  So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children.  Now we call Him, “Abba, Father.”  Romans 8:15  

This is the “good news.”    Indeed–this is Great News!!!  In fact, the rest of the verse, (or the rest of the story as Paul Harvey likes to say) is this: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is Eternal Life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Romans 6:23

Someday, our lives on this earth will be over, and we will each stand before God.  Will we stand as people who accepted the great gift offered to us through Jesus—the gift of salvation and forgiveness?  Will we stand before our loving Dad, or the Righteous Judge?

I for one, am grateful that I will not be standing before God as a Judge, but as God as my Dad, even though God is one and the same—a God of love and a God of Righteousness.  In fact, I propose that one cannot know and understand the magnificent gift of Jesus coming to earth and dying for our sins, until one embraces both aspects of God.

If you would like to know more about how to have a relationship with God as, “Your Dad”, you can go to this link:    https://www.cru.org/us/en/how-to-know-god/would-you-like-to-know-god-personally.html

I don’t know about you, but the fact that we all deserve death, but God instead offers us all life is a great encouragement to me!!

Our Family Christmas Letter from 2010

I recently came across this family Christmas letter I wrote in 2010. I thought I would share this letter with you all–as it encouraged me greatly–and I hope it will encourage you as well.

Christmas Letter 2010

Dear Friends and Family,

This year was in direct contrast with last year. Half of last year we spent in the hospital with my Dad, as we watched him slowly dying.

This year was filled with many blessings: family vacations, family weddings, milestones in business,  and kid’s accomplishments.

All these things are a reminder that life – she is a changing!! If we are ever in a place of despair, and we think this is all we will ever experience, time will prove us wrong.

In the midst of all this change, God does not— His love is ever constant, His forgiveness a gift He offers to all, and His power He gives to all who depend on Him.

Each Christmas season we celebrate Deity becoming human flesh, and dwelling among us. As we close out this yearly letter, I’d like to leave you with the words from an old Christmas carol, the 3rd verse of Hark the Herald Angels sing, (sometimes the old songs express it most beautifully):

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Son of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings

Ris’n with healing in His wings

Mild He lays His glory by

Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

Hark! The herald angels sing,

Glory to the newborn King!”

Staying In The Moment

Our Family decorated our Christmas Tree this week.  Our son’s family came over, we made hot cocoa, with real whipping cream and marshmallows.  Some of us like both at the same time!!

This was the first year we had two Christmas trees—to hold all the decorations.

My grandchildren were excited and enthusiastic!!  Oh, what a joy they were to watch, as they decorated the tree!

Yet, this was one of the hardest years since my son Sean died, to stay in the moment, and stand in the joy of the moment.

Grief threatened every moment to overwhelm me, and some moments it did.  Some moments, I could not stop the tears from flowing.  

When I was putting up the ornaments with my family—I wanted to escape the pain and the grief so badly—I wanted to run away.  Instead, God presence was very tangible to me.  He told me He was with me and that He would not leave me.   He urged me to “Stay in the Moment”, and not escape. 

A song, called Keep Me In The Moment by Jeremy Camp—has become my mantra during this time to remind me of what the Holy Spirit has been whispering in my ear.  The Refrain to this song goes:

“Keep me in the moment,⁠ Help me live with my eyes wide open,⁠ ‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me..⁠ Singing oh Lord, show me what matters,⁠ Throw away what I’m chasing after,⁠ ‘Cause I don’t wanna miss what you have for me.”

I hope this message encourages you, and I hope this song will encourage you as it has encouraged me—to stay in the moment—so we don’t miss all that God has for us!!  Let’s Be Encouraged!!

Julia’s Feast

Julia’s Feast

This past weekend, our oldest daughter Julia gave our family an incredible gift.  She cooked delicious elaborate meals all weekend long for us, inviting her brothers and their families to join us.

She came up with the idea in the middle of her fall semester.  Julia was so busy with her classes, she wanted to have a weekend after finals were over to bring the family together and indulge in her hobbies. Inspired by a series of videos made by Binging with Babish, Julia set out to create several meals based on the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Here are some of the dishes she made for us:

Cranberry Scones, Mince Meat Pies, and an Apple Tart

Apple Tart, Poppy Seed Bread, and Sausages

Roast Duck, Mashed Potatoes, and Duck Gravy

Salmon and Dill Quiche

Honey Cakes and Mince Meat Pies

“Rabbit” Stew and Brussel Sprouts

Tea Loaf

Julia also made baguettes and braided bread. Everything she made was delicious!!

For drinks we had Apple Cider, Pots of Irish Breakfast Tea, Coffee, Water. Julia also made Mead, which she started back in November!

It was a weekend of eating, playing board games, playing outside in the snow, sledding and making a snowman, and just being together. Unfortunately, the same snowstorm that provided us with these outdoor activities also prevented some family members from joining us.

As we were concluding our fun filled weekend, I told Julia that the weekend reminded me of a story called Babette’s Feast written by Isak Dinesen.   The woman in the story, Babette, cooks a sumptuous feast for people who normally eat very bland food.  Some of them are appreciative and grateful, some  had no idea of the great skill, and expensive ingredients that went into making the meal. The meal was truly a gift from Babette to these people, just as Julia’s weekend of meals was a gift to all of us.

Julia’s Feast and Babette’s Feast are illustrations of God’s grace given to us and how we receive that gift of His grace.

In this Holy Season where we remember the gift of the Christ child and the Peace He restored between man and God, let us take some time to enjoy the “Feast” He has laid before us, and enjoy the relationship we now have with Him.   Let us acknowledge that He sacrificed greatly for us and voice our appreciation and love to Him.  Let our rightful response be:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.   Romans 12:1,2

When we lay our lives on the Lord’s altar, we are telling Him we accept the great love He has for us, and the great sacrifice He made to bring us this love, this forgiveness and this acceptance. We tell Him– we can trust Him– we can trust this great love. We are truly joining in the Feast He has prepared for us.

These thoughts greatly encourage me, I hope they encourage you as well.

I will never desert you…..

A song by Matthew West has been striking some chords in my life—There are some phrases that hit home for me, one of them being: You’re the God who stays. You’re the God who walks in my direction when the whole world walks away. .Wow!! That is powerful!! Can you ‘see’ this God?

When I was a teenager, my first love broke up with me to date another girl.   I wondered if I could ever trust someone with my heart again.   A year later, I was reading this verse from Hebrews 13:5, which said:….”I will never desert you nor will I ever forsake you.”   In Greek it is written in the triple negative, so what it actually says is:” I will never, never, never desert you nor will I ever forsake you.”    I realized then that God– was the God who stays.  I also realized that no one else could promise me that they would never leave—because even if they stayed til death did us part, death would part us.  With God—that is not the case.

Another verse in this song that jumped out to me is:

I used to hide Every time I thought I let You down

I always thought I had to earn my way, but I’m learning You don’t work that way.

Somehow You don’t see me like I do,

 Somehow You’re still here.

You’re the God who stays!

I used to think that I had to “do” things to earn God’s love.  What an amazing thing to discover the depth and riches of God’s love, a love from which nothing can separate me and nothing can separate you.

Sometimes, this is ridiculously hard to believe.  The video shows a young mom dealing with a drug addiction.  When we are struggling with addictions and brokenness—there is such a feeling of shame—of unworthiness—and that is when it is really difficult to hear and see the truth of God’s love. Yet ironically, it is in accepting that love and strength from God that those addictions can be overcome, and healing can take place in the brokenness. 

I think the lie is that no one else struggles with hard things, when in reality, most of us struggle with hard things.  “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man….”  In other words, we are all tempted, and we are all tempted by many of the same things…but the rest of the verse states…”but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the means of escape.”  1 Corinthians 10:13   God is faithful.  God is faithful.   He is the God who stays.  He is the One who runs in our direction when the whole world walks away. 

I hope this song ministers to you, as it has to me, and that you will be Encouraged!!

The Circle and Pi

I am a homeschooling mom.  It is amazing the things you get to relearn –when you teach it.  Like recently, we learned about The Circle and Pi.   For those of you who have forgotten what Pi is—It is the circumference of the circle divided by the diameter, (which is approximately 3.14).  Pi day is celebrated on March 14th.

But here is something you may not know about Pi.   Pi goes on for infinity, which means that every number combination in the entire world is found in Pi.  Your Social Security number, my Social Security number, everyone’s SSN, your street address, my street address, everyone’s street address, your birthdate, my birthdate, everyone’s birthdate, all the DNA codes, and all digital codes—all found in Pi. You can go to mypiday.com and type in your birthdate and it will give you the decimal point where your birthdate is found. My pi # is 2,588,890.

So—you are all wondering—what is the point of telling us this?

Well, in Romans 1, it tells us that God’s creation shouts to us, that God exists, and it tells us of who He is.

God made the Sun and the planets, as circles—as spheres.  What does a circle tell us about God?  Well—God tells us that He does not have a beginning or an end—and a circle—does not have a beginning or an end—it is a visual image of a reality that we with our finite minds—can look at and “see” an impossible to understand concept of infinity.

Also Pi—a number combination that goes on for infinity— (I think they have divided it out to the 34 trillion now), gives us another visual “look” at something that is infinite.

Pi helps us to “See” the infinite.  It helps us to look at complexities and “see” God.  All of Heaven is shouting to us that God Is, God exists.

This infinite, Creator God loves us.  In a few weeks we will be celebrating God humbling Himself and coming down to earth in a form of a baby.

We have a baby in our family right now, and oh, what gifts they are—but how vulnerable they are!  They are tiny, precious beings.

Our infinite God—who created everything– made Himself vulnerable for us and came as a baby to us.  He grew up among us, lived among us, did miracles testifying to who He was, and then the ultimate in vulnerability—He died a humiliating death on the cross, to pay for each one of our sins.  He rose from the dead, and now awaits us to join Him, as the same power that raised Him from the dead will raise us.

I pray that as we enter this most Holy Season, that we will think of The Circle and Pi—-to remind us of the One who has no beginning and no end,  the One who is Infinite!!  This great One loves you and loves me.  Let us bow before Him and worship Him and LOVE Him!!

**Science Art by Martin Krzywinski

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Perhaps you are experiencing a much different Thanksgiving this year than you have in years past.  We are—not all of our immediate family will be together, let alone our extended family.  

Sometimes, we go through times where it is hard to be thankful.  Perhaps a loved one is suffering, perhaps you are suffering.  Perhaps the entire world is suffering.

My youngest daughter, (who is 13), said—“I’ve been told by others, that their 13th year was really hard—but I never expected how hard it would be to be 13 in 2020.”    We laughed together—but she is right—if you are already going through a difficult time—this year has made it even more difficult.

I am reading through the book of Daniel right now.  Why?  Well, several reasons—it is teaching me so much about putting myself in God’s hands in difficult situations.   Daniel and his friends had been taken captive from Israel.  They saw their entire nation destroyed.  They saw loved ones killed or carried away by the Babylonians or scattered to the four winds.

When Daniel’s friends were to be thrown into the fiery furnace for not bowing down to an image of gold that the King set up—they said, “…if we are thrown into the blazing furnace the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O King.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”   When they said that, they really did not know if God would save them—after all they had seen so many deaths already— yet they were going to obey God no matter what.   Why?  What difference would it have made if they compromised or not?   I believe these young men knew God—they loved Him—and they would not betray Him.  He was worthy of their lives.

If I am honest, I’ve grown up in the age of “Grace”, where God’s blessings have been abundant.   We may even think in this nation, that they are somehow “deserved”.  

I am convinced that the most Holy God is worthy of all my love and my obedience and my trust, even if I do not “see” His blessings.   The more I get to know Him, the more convinced I am of this truth.   So, as I pray to God, I ask that I continue to “see” Him and to “know” Him—for this is the true blessing.  This is why, Ephesians says that we’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly places.  Knowing God and being known by Him is “every spiritual blessing.”   Everything else fades in comparison.

Least you think that I am some super spiritual person—on a different plane than others—let me say that I struggle with “fixing my eyes” on Jesus, as do most believers.  I can easily look at my circumstances and become derailed.  This year has been an especially difficult year for looking at my circumstances.   I keep hoping and praying that it will be at an end—that things will get back to “normal”, while becoming more convinced that maybe things will never be “normal” again.

Another reason I am reading the book of Daniel, is that it speaks to more of what is going to happen in the future than almost any book, except Revelations.  In fact, if you want to understand Revelations, you need to read the Old Testament Prophets, as they hold the keys to unlocking the prophesies in Revelation.  Daniel and the other Old Testament Prophets also have fulfilled prophesies— thus testifying to the trustworthiness of God and His Word.

Right now— we may be seeing the groundwork laid for end-time prophesies being fulfilled.  I always wondered how a “One-World Government” could take place—and now I could actually see that happening—we have seen a “worldwide” type of control happening in this pandemic.  Our churches have been ordered closed; our businesses have been ordered closed.  We have become more dependent on the “Government” for our survival and more compliant to accepting their control.   I know many who read this are scoffing at my ideas, believe me, I would like to be wrong– I hope I am wrong.

What does this mean for you and I?  What it has always meant—we need to be ready to enter into God’s Heaven.    Read: “Would You Like To Know God Personally”– to get further instructions on how to be ready.  If you are already a believer but want to know how to let Jesus live in and through you, so you can live out God’s purpose for you, read:  “Satisfied?”  

I am praying for us all that we will know and follow Jesus!!

Let me say again:   Happy Thanksgiving!!  May we be truly thankful for the best gift we could ever receive—Jesus!!  He is the reason we can BE ENCOURAGED!!

Mittens

I like to go for walks outside in the crisp cool mornings of fall.  I have a problem though.  My hands—my fingers in particular– get very cold.  So, I have taken to wearing mittens—wool mittens with a fleecy interior.  Why?  Because they keep my fingers together, and my fingers generate body warmth— more warmth, than keeping my fingers separated in gloves.

Today I went for a walk, and my fingers were fine, but my poor thumbs were cold, so I took them out of the thumb holder and let them hang out with the rest of the fingers and they were warm again.

It reminded me of how we are as people—when we are around each other—encouraging each other—we generate more warmth—we keep each other from getting cold—like a campfire—many logs together burn more brightly than one log by itself.

This is why scripture tells us:  “Let us think about how to motivate one another to love and good works, and let us not neglect our meeting together…..”   Hebrews 10:24-25

 Many people are feeling pretty cold and alienated from other people right now.  They do not have contact with others, and they are lonely.

I get it—people are afraid– they don’t want to put their physical health at risk, but their spiritual, emotional and mental health are suffering.

We need to “think about” how to motivate each other.   God tells us to not “neglect” meeting together.    We may not meet in large groups anymore, but we can still meet.  We need each other.  

Recently, I celebrated my mom’s birthday with her.  While I was there, she received many phone calls from her friends and family.  With each call, my mom lit up.  She was being encouraged and loved!

We have been blessed with technology to keep in touch with each other.

However, the very best way—is to be physically around our loved ones.   Just as my fingers stay warmer when they are in direct contact with each other, we need to be in direct contact with each other.   My advice is to choose carefully from a small group—those people you can be in direct contact with—and see on a regular basis—to pray with, to hug, to encourage, to read scripture with, to love.

Take the initiative, and call, reach out.  Even if the person you reach out to, does not want direct contact—I bet they’ll be encouraged by your care and concern.

Ask God who He wants you to keep warm with your direct contact. 

Many people are meeting in small groups, others are going to church.   Ask God what He wants you to do.   He will tell you.   These things He has already told us:  

  1.  We need to “think about” how we as individuals and as the collective body of Christ—can motivate each other.
  2. We need to “think about” how to spur each other on to love and good deeds.
  3. We need to “gather together” to do this.   That may mean going back to church, or meeting in a small group—but it does mean being with other believers in some way.

Let’s keep each other warm!!  Let’s Be Encouraged!!